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Back to School… How Do You Get Kids Back to Sleep?

It happens every summer. Parents (at least all the ones I know) either treat their kids to later bedtime schedules or simply stop enforcing them.

For many, it’s simply accepting reality. An 8:30 p.m. bedtime, which can be hard enough to stick to during the busy school year, is nearly impossible after a day full of summer fun that always seems to push bath and downtime back much later than planned. And what kid falls asleep when it’s still light outside?

Sure, over the summer, some kids practically play themselves to sleep—perhaps crashing even earlier than they would during the school year. But, nobody has to get up for school in the morning either.

And then it happens. Somehow, it always happens. Summer ends, and school begins. Back to homework and tighter schedules. Back to heavy backpacks and closed-toe-shoes. And back to… sleep?

Keep dreaming. For many parents, it’s back to bedtime battles with kids who have gotten used to late night movies and playing in the yard until dark. And they won’t give it up without a fight. For most kids, going back to the school schedule simply doesn’t feel right. The only mother who seems to make any sense is Mother Nature, and as far as she’s concerned, summer is still on and going strong.

So, what are parents to do?

The most effective tool aside from a relaxing bedtime routine (i.e., warm bath and some reading time before bed) is the family schedule. First and foremost, parents need to be patient. Getting your child to sleep on time isn’t going to happen over night. And even if you do, chances are there’ll be some fooling around before sleep eventually arrives. Yes, it can take hours, and yes, it can drive you batty. But the secret to getting kids on schedule is to stick to it. In time, it will take.

That means planning ahead and being realistic in how you schedule your pre-bedtime activities and bedtime routine. You may think your kid only needs 15 minutes to bathe, but if you usually spend another 45 minutes trying to get them to come out, you’re going to miss bedtime—every time.

It’s also important for parents to keep everyone—not just their kids—on schedule. It’s no small feat and an especially difficult one for single parents or dual income households. At least one parent—unless some kind of household help is involved—needs to get home from work in time.  This ensures dinner will be made in time. Which ensures kids are in the bath on time. And so forth.

And let’s face it, your kids won’t always cooperate. There’s always going to be some amount of bickering. Or homework that takes longer than usual. (This is why getting assignments out of the way first thing after school when kids are still sharp is key.) You may not always get the kids to bed in time, but if you stick to your schedule, you’ll keep it close—at least most of the time. And that will work in your favor when you’re trying to get your kids to bed on time the next day, because the more well-rested they are, the less difficult they’ll be.

How do you get your kids to bed on time?

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Jenny is a SleepRate community manager and customer advocate.
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